Diehard theatre fans have heard of The 24 Hour Plays and its cousin The 24 Hour Musicals. Founded by Tina Fallon, Lindsay W. Bowen, and Kurt Gardner, the events are built as creative explosions to serve as fundraisers.
The theatrical marathon assembles teams of writers and directors at random at 11 PM on the evening prior to the performance. The creative teams must complete the book and score by the time the actors arrive at 9 AM the next morning. They must be ready to perform in front of a live audience by 8 PM that evening. This year's event was held October 29 at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre.
Aside from raising money for The Lillys—at least $25,000 from audience members on site—The 24 Hour Musicals served as a reminder as why all those famous folk (John Mulaney, Bebe Neuwrith, Savion Glover, Will Swenson, Jose Llana, Norm Lewis, Merle Dandridge, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Patti Murin, Lea DeLaria, and more) got into the business in the first place: to play.
No one expects a musical written, composed, orchestrated, rehearsed, and teched in less than 24 hours (because the performance time counts in those 24) to be perfect. The evening felt like everyone’s chance to let loose and bask in the silliness of it all. It was refreshing and—because of its limited time constraint—freed the audience. This night of theatre could just be pure joy.
That’s not to say the writers (who included Obie winner Kirsten Childs and Tony nominees Amanda Green and Jonathan Coulton) and directors (including Tony winner Kathleen Marshall and Obie winner Robert O'Hara) didn’t hit some real issues, albeit in fun.
The Gordon Four, the first musical of the night, took a comedic look at strained family dynamics as four siblings reunited to sing together “as their mother’s dying wish” at her funeral; Backstage at Slavery! The Musical! hit the timely topic of roles available to actors of color and the confusion of being an ally; Things Get Better looked at a 1970s family band looking towards a future with less war and more women’s rights; and Split Decisions even brought Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg into the mix, portrayed by Jessica Hecht.
The Lillys also announced multiple new initiatives: The Composer Award will grant an applicant $25,000 to help them write; the establishment of the Review, a new publication of theatre criticism specifically showcasing pieces by a diverse curated group of critics; and the construction of a statue of Lorraine Hansberry to travel New York City before finding a permanent home to be announced.
Flip through the gallery of production photos and after-party snapshots to see the full cast of The 24 Hour Musicals and their creative teams: